I have often said that my early career as a staff photographer took place in a context that could only
be described as Runyonesque. I am, of course, referring to the renowned newsman, author and screenplay writer, Damon Runyon. He was born in 1884 and died in 1946. His stories were peopled with odd-ball characters, the most well known of whom were the gamblers and minor hoods in the stage play, which later became the movie, "Guys And Dolls."

As a newspaper photographer from the 1960's through 2002, I met many a character who fit the Runyon mold. Most of them were my associates at Newsday (Long Island, NY).

Over the next few months, I will introduce you to them. In many instances, I have changed names in the fervent hope that I not be thrashed for having exposed their idiosyncrasies to the world. It is not my intent to ridicule or criticize anyone. The antics and the events about which I write did truly take place. Time may have dimmed the exact dialogs but I write these journals depicting these people as accurately as humanly possible. I hope that you will find them as interesting and as zany as did I.



By Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer (Retired)

As I have stated in my Prologue, these journals are about some of the weird and whacky people whom I have encountered during my career. I have also said that many of them are my colleagues. Because of that, many are also my friends. This brings up the quandary of how to write these stories without insulting or embarrassing these friends. Many years have elapsed since the incidents mentioned here took place and the subjects of these stories have matured and changed. Nevertheless, these events did take place and they are stories that I feel need to be told in order to bring color, life and realism to my claim that my early years in journalism were truly out of the pages of Damon Runyon.

I have endeavored to be honest and forthright in writing these journals. But, I am coming to a point where I feel compelled to alter the names of my subjects. I am certain that they will recognize themselves, as will others who knew them. I can only pray that they do not take umbrage at what I write, but can see the humor in these stories and agree that they are stories that need to be told. I have written stories about myself that might have caused me embarrassment at the time that they happened. But, I take pride in the fact that these foibles are part and parcel of that wonderful era of journalism that no longer exists. I hope that my friends, who are depicted in these journals, feel the same.

The two people of whom I am about to write couldn't be more dissimilar. Nora was a class act; a real princess. She was intelligent, beautiful, polite and soft spoken. The Greek was bold, brash and belligerent. They were both excellent photographers and they were both well liked. Both of them were characters in their own right.

Nora, as I said, was very attractive. She was blessed with a pretty face, crowned with long honey-blond hair. She was slim and shapely and many a male head turned in her direction whenever she entered a room. She was uniquely feminine and modest and she never flaunted her attributes.

Nora came into our male dominated profession and was one of the first women to be hired by our department. It took awhile for the men in the Photo Department to get used to the fact that there was now a woman among us. Our language and deportment was often salty and salacious. When a group of us was waiting for our film to be developed, crude and obscene jokes were often exchanged. The fact that Nora might be one of the photographers waiting for her film never deterred any of us from sharing a good dirty joke. We were too used to being ourselves in what had once been a "man's" world. To her everlasting credit, Nora never complained or made a fuss. She never participated in this ribaldry, either. One minute she was in the room, and then suddenly, she just vanished. Nobody ever thought that she was prudish. She was just too much of a lady to allow herself to be tainted by such crudity.

In spite of her modesty, there were occasions when her femininity and beauty betrayed her, through no fault of her own. Nora was a sharp dresser. The fashion of the time called for mini-skirts. She would have none of the more mannish slacks that many women wore. She wore the mini-skirt and showed it off well. It also showed off her shapely legs, but if she noticed the obvious stares of hot- blooded young (and old) men, she never paid much heed. It shouldn't impede her professionalism. She wouldn't allow it to. It did, however, have an impact on the males around her.

One day, my editor assigned me to make some color slides of one of our photographers covering a sports event. They were to be used as a slide show for visitors to the paper, showing the workings of our Photo Department. I was sent to a high school basketball game and it happened that Nora was covering it. I positioned myself across the court so that I could photograph Nora shooting the action. It was then that I noticed the effect that her mini-skirt was having on men. In order for her to avoid blocking the view of the spectators in the bleachers, Nora would squat at the sideline. Thus the spectators got an unimpeded view of the game. But, the players got an unimpeded view of Nora as her mini-skirt rode up her marvelous legs. Let me hasten to say that there was nothing lewd or salacious implied by this. She was properly attired with the appropriate undergarments. But, the sight of all of that exposed leg on such a pretty woman was more than the hormone crazed teenage boys could take. Players would be watching her and dribbling the ball into walls. Shots on the basket would go off in weird directions. Even the referees would crash into each other. It's a wonder that no one caught on that every game Nora covered was such a low scoring contest.

Nora's naivety betrayed her in matters of the heart. She fell head over heels for a tall, good-looking reporter in our newsroom. She dated him exclusively for quite some time until she woke up one day to the fact that his agenda didn't include commitment. His failure of reciprocity, if I may use a photographic term, wounded her deeply.

She sought solace in religion, choosing a very charismatic sect far removed from the beliefs of her ancestors. From that point on, her every waking moment was devoted to this group's philosophy; which was skewed to making sure that she remained devoted to their philosophy. Whenever she had a free moment, Nora's face was buried in a religious book, folder, pamphlet or tract. Now she didn't even bother to disappear from the darkroom area when smutty stories were being exchanged. She stood outside the door of her film developing room, oblivious to everything temporal around her. Her faith was her shield. Her social life was now devoted to her religion. Most of her money went to her church. She had nothing to do with the camaraderie that was a hallmark of our tight little group of photographers. We all missed the smiles and charm of this lovely person.

About this time, I was doing a stint as Night Photo Editor. Nora worked my shift. One night, I gave her an assignment that started at 7 PM. I went out to grab a bite to eat and when I returned at 6:45 PM, I noticed her car still in the parking lot. It was about a 30 minute drive to her assignment and as I approached her car, I saw her in the driver's seat, reading a religious tract by flashlight. She was too absorbed to notice my approach and was startled when I tapped on her window.

"Nora," I said. "Your assignment starts in 15 minutes and you have a half hour drive ahead of you."

"Oh, yes," she responded as she started her car. "Don't worry. God will provide."

"God will provide" became her catchword. She used it frequently.

Now we come to The Greek. I didn't use that term as an ethnic anything. That's what he called himself. Whenever he phoned in to get his assignments, it was always, "Hi. It's The Greek. Waddya have for me?"

George was Greek. Before becoming a newspaper photographer, he had worked as a short order cook in several Greek diners belonging to members of his family. He was proud of his heritage and never tried hide it. He couldn't if he wanted to. He was tall, thin, good looking with a thatch of straight dark hair that fell across one side of his forehead. He was also one of the most outrageous characters in our motley crew. He was loud, boisterous, passionate and funny. Every time he brought his rolls of developed 35mm film from the darkroom and laid them on the light table for the Photo Editor to select, his comment was a loud, "You've seen the rest. Now look at the best."

He often made comments to me about my friendship with the Chief Photo Editor. He accused me of being an ass kisser and this always resulted in my being able to get new cameras or lenses whenever I wanted. Whereas he was frequently thrown out of the boss's office when he went in to make similar requests.

One day I sat him down and explained the facts of life.

"Greek," I said, "Call it ass kissing if you wish. It's really a matter of timing. Whenever I feel that I need to replace an old piece of equipment, I watch through the boss's office windows. I see him come in, hang up his coat, check his mail and phone messages, stir his coffee and start to look through today's paper. When he has had about half of his coffee, I walk over and knock on his door."

"Hi, Marv", I'll say. "Howz it going? Didja catch those Yankees on tv, last night?" Or, I sit on the corner of his desk and we'll discuss fishing, which we often do together. Then I'll say something like, "By the way, Marv, I've had this Nikon camera body for about four or five years now and the lens mount is loose. I've had it back for repair a few times and it just doesn't want to stay tight." He would pick it up and jiggle the mount with his fingers and say, "OK. Fill out a request form and I'll getcha a new one."

"You, on the other hand, lay in wait for him. As soon as you see him go into his office, you barge in on him before he has had his coffee; before he even has his coat off. Then you throw the offending piece of photo equipment on his desk and shout, 'GODDAM IT! YOU GOTTA REPLACE THIS PIECE OF SHIT! IT DON'T WORK ANYMORE." Whereupon, he throws you out of his office. Timing, Greek. It's all in the timing."

He never got it.

One day, the princess came in from her assignments. She was in tears. Some of the guys were in the office and asked her what the problem was.

"Oh," she sobbed, "This has been a terrible day. One of my cameras is in for repair, and just now, as I was taking my spare camera out of my trunk to remove the film I had shot earlier, it slipped out of my hand and the back is bent and I can't close it. What am I going to do?"

The Greek heard her lamentation. Oddly enough, in spite of his gruff exterior, the man did have a soul.

"Don't worry, Nora. I just got a motor drive for one of my Nikons and I can let you have the old back." (In those days, the camera backs were removable and the motor drives came with their own backs.)

"Hallelujah!" she exulted. "I knew that God would provide."

The Greek turned purple. "GOD WILL PROVIDE!! GOD WILL PROVIDE!! What do you mean, 'God will provide?' God didn't give you that back. I did. I provided."

Poor George. I guess he didn't understand that God often works his miracles through other people. Or so I've been told.

Dick Kraus



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